Commission calls for More Power

In a statement, the PFUJ urged the government to grant more powers to the commission to hear the complaints of media persons. The PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi said:

Apart from certain reservations and recommendations, the draft of the bill is much better than the ones prepared in the last 15 years. This is a result of our continuous struggle for such a law for journalists’ protection and freedom of the press. However, there are certain clauses of the bill that need to be improved or amended, as the commission is not fully empowered.

Suggested Improvement in the Bill – Inclusion of Freelance Journalists

The PFUJ said:

The freelance journalist should also be included in the commission. The commission should be empowered to summon government officials. In addition to that, the definition of a journalist or media person should be clarified and broadened.

The PFUJ statement further read:

A judge of the Supreme Court or a retired judge of the apex court should be appointed as the chairman of the commission. The bill has set different terms and conditions for the qualification of the chairman than the ones suggested. We believe that these terms and conditions should be changed because if the chairman is appointed in this way then he will be subservient to the government and his impartiality would be questionable.

Concluding the statement, the PFUJ stated:

More stakeholders should be inducted into the commission so that it would emerge as a balanced entity.

To discuss the proposal, the PFUJ has requested the government to summon other stakeholders before the Parliament committee. The Federal Union has also urged both treasury and opposition parties to fully support recommendations made by them PFUJ before the bill is tabled in the National Assembly and the Senate.

Bill doesn’t specify Post-threat Journalist Protection Action

In a separate statement, Iqbal Khattak, Executive Director of the Freedom Network Pakistan said:

The bill should have been tabled years back; it could have saved the lives of many journalists. The bill is also missing the office of public prosecutor which is the cornerstone in the father UN Plan of Action. The bill is also silent about the post-threat situation to journalists. Who will protect a journalist if the threat is very serious and he or she needs immediate relocation as Freedom Network does under Pakistan Journalists Safety Fund?

Advancements made in presenting the Protection Bill in Sindh Assembly

The Sindh Minister for Information Syed Nasir Hussain Shah presented the Sindh Protection of Journalists and Other Media Practitioners Bill 2021 in the Provincial Assembly on the 21st of May. According to reports, the bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Law for scrutinizing legislation and presenting the report to the assembly in three days.

In a statement, KUJ President Nizamuddin Siddiqui and General Secretary Fahim Siddiqui asked the members of the Sindh Assembly to pass the bill. Referring to the 21st of May, he said:

Today is a historic day as the Journalist Protection Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly and is now being tabled in the Sindh Assembly.

The PFUJ, KUJ, senior journalists, and media experts now hope that the bill would be passed soon and would ensure the protection of media workers and their rights.

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